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On the 1st of June the Centre for Urban Studies (CUS) co-hosted the fifth edition of the Urban Studies Networking Event. This event, organized by the CUS, was co-hosted with the Centre for Urban Mental Health (UMH) and the Centre for Social Sciences and Global Health (SSGH). The event aimed to explore shared interests and to stimulate future collaborations between scholars looking at health aspects in urban areas from different methodological, epistemological and ontological perspectives.

The event was opened by CUS director prof. dr. Maria Kaika, UMH co-director prof. dr. Claudi Bockting, and SSGH co-director prof. dr. Eileen Moyer. After these introductions to the study of cities and health at the different centres, all participants were invited to a round of exhilarating one-minute presentations on their research engagements. Once familiar with each other’s work, the participants joined one of the two round tables on green spaces and health, and social conditions and health, for fruitful discussions on these topics, with people from different disciplinary backgrounds.

Green Spaces and Health

The discussion at the round table green spaces and health started off with the questions: What does a relationship between green spaces and health mean and how can we understand the quality of green spaces beyond the traditional physical understanding? What issues of politics and of justice come up? And what do green spaces mean for non-humans; what is this multispecies perspective that is developing? Some topics to be explored were found to be the connection of green spaces with memory and a sense of belonging, but also for whom green spaces actually are and should be (for humans and non-humans).

The group also highlighted that there is to some extent a conflictual relationship between green/nature and urban/concrete. Since it is not enough to create green spaces in high density areas, the conversion or reclaim of concrete areas can be very conflictual.  Besides, there are the question of how we empirically research the impact of green spaces. However, some synergies were created. The group agreed on the idea that pilot projects are a good method to empirically connect with local dynamics and assess these complexities. Additionally, the use of VR technology was discussed as an innovative and promising tool to analyse how green spaces influence people without having the burden of building a physical environment. The last issue raised was related to how issues surrounding green spaces in the – very diverse –  Global South are different from the Global North. There is a need to differentiate from place to place. Furthermore, there were some synergies on the methods to access green spaces under this complex understanding.

Social Conditions and Health

In the round table session social conditions and health the group found common ground in the term ‘interventions’. What does intervention mean in psychology, and how is this different from intervention as discussed within disciplines such as anthropology, geography and political science? Whereas studies in psychology and neuro-psychology often concern interventions at the individual level and through experiments, it is more common to scale it up to peer groups, families, communities and even up to the state in social science disciplines.

However, there is momentum of interventions that depart from a more positive approach than is common and that focus on group dynamics, both within social sciences and psychology/neuro-psychology. Within anthropology, on the one hand, there is research concerning bottom-up interventions that aim to boost youth’s confidence by focusing on their strengths, through sports and art, for instance. Within psychological and neuro-psychological sciences, on the other hand, there is also attention for new types of interventions. As some interventions that work for children do not work for adolescents, there is a new type of intervention needed that focuses on adolescents’ need for respect and status, and that is where a parallel can be found. As almost all the current stress measures are negatively phrased, there may be potential in looking into co-devising a more positively phrased stress measure as well as more positive interventions.

During this discussion it was also explored how caring for oneself and the planet is thought of differently between different generations. The discussants agreed that consumption patterns change over generations, as is visible in the incorporation of vegetarian and vegan options in young people’s diets, for instance. A slogan that came up, and a topic to be explored, is ‘care is cool’.

After the round tables the groups came together to share their inspiring ideas and reflect on potential synergies. Hopefully the discussions can be grounds for further collaborations.  

Follow-up Call for Seed Grant Proposals

The networking event will be followed by a call for proposals for Seed Grant projects. The call will be published by the end of June 2021 on this webpage as well as in our Newsletter and through our social media channels.

If you are interested in developing a project on one of the topics below, we can bring you in touch with the attendees to explore possibilities for collaboration. Please send an email with your research interests, affiliation and question to urbanstudies@uva.nl. We also invite everyone to bring in fresh ideas and to develop their own new proposal.

  • Urban green space
  • The built environment and health
  • Positive interventions against stress among youth
  • Generational differences in practices of self-care and care for the environment
  • Healthy sounds
  • Cities of the Global South vs. cities of the Global North

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